Passenger car sales may be on the decline, but the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is still selling strongly – currently, it’s accounting for around 40 per cent of its segment.
Available in hatchback and sedan forms, as well as a range of trims and engine variants, the little Benz offers about as much choice as you can get right now. It even has a plug-in hybrid option with over 70km of EV range.
Here on test we have the mid-spec 2021 Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic Sedan, which offers a dash of sporting prowess without being a full-blown AMG.
The A250 is one of the more popular variants in the A-Class line-up locally, given its attainable price, all-paw traction, and of course the allure of the three-pointed star on the nose.
Is Benz’s entry-level sedan a good buy, or are you better off buying a lower-spec but larger sedan for similar money?
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic Sedan we have on test starts at $59,700 before on-road costs, commanding a $2300 premium over the equivalent A-Class hatchback.
It’s about smack-bang in the middle of the $45,000 A180 Hatch ($46,500 for the Sedan) and the fire-breathing $94,100 Mercedes-AMG A45 S hyper hatch – all prices exclude on-road costs.
Our tester also had several options fitted, including lovely Mojave Silver metallic paintwork ($1190), and the AMG Exclusive Package ($3190) which brings heated and ventilated front seats trimmed in real leather (two-tone) and stitched leatherette dashboard and door trims, adaptive dampers, automatic dual-zone climate control, and configurable LED ambient lighting.
The optional Driving Assistance Package ($1790) was also fitted, bringing adaptive cruise control as well as blind-spot and rear cross-traffic assists, along with the Seat Comfort Package ($1290) which brings memory functions for the driver and front passenger seats in conjunction with auto-dipping side mirrors.
We’ll dive deeper into the A250 4Matic’s standard equipment in the next section. So, the vehicle you see here is priced at $67,160 plus on-road costs. Eesh.
For reference, the soon-to-be replaced Audi S3 Sedan – with 213kW, 380Nm and a 0-100 time of under 5.0 seconds – retails for $65,800 plus on-roads.
There’s quite a few A-Class variants to choose from, so let’s start with what’s included as part of the A250 4Matic trim level:
- AMG body styling
- Comfort Sports seats in Dinamica microfibre
- Keyless-Go entry/start
- Stainless steel sports pedals with rubber studs
- 64-colour ambient lighting
- Red contrast stitching
- Nappa leather flat-bottom sports steering wheel
- Sports Direct steering system
- Panoramic glass sunroof
- Perforated front brake discs
- Lowered comfort suspension
- Multilink rear suspension
That’s on top of the standard specification from lower grades, which includes:
- MBUX infotainment system with dual 10.25-inch displays and ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice commands
- Satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- ‘Artico’ leatherette upholstery
- Keyless start
- ‘Style’ equipment line
- LED headlights
- Reversing camera
- Active lane keep assist
- Active parking assist with Parktronic
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Active brake assist
- Traffic sign assist
- Adaptive high-beam assist
- Wireless phone charging
As noted earlier, to add features like ventilated front seats, driver and front passenger memory, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic assist.
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class line-up wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2018 testing conducted by Euro NCAP.
Scores including 96 per cent for adult occupant protection, 91 per cent for child occupants, 92 per cent for vulnerable road users an 73 per cent for safety assist.
All three grades of autonomous emergency braking (City, Interurban and Vulnerable Road User) as well as lane keep assist with lane departure warning and an advanced speed assistance system are fitted as standard equipment on all variants.
Dual frontal airbags, side chest-protecting airbags for both the front and rear occupants, side head-protecting airbags (curtains) and a driver knee airbag are also standard.
The A-Class wowed us at launch with its futuristic interior layout and high-resolution displays. It still has its shine today.
It’s no wonder so many people are buying the A-Class in Australia, as well as its platform mates. All share similar cabin layouts, and the visual drama on its own is a point of difference compared to the more conventionally-styled A3 and 1 Series.
Ahead of the driver are twin 10.25-inch displays running the net-based MBUX infotainment software featuring an in-built virtual assistant, activated by saying ‘Hey Mercedes’.
The AI assistant can do basic things like input an address for navigation or change the radio station, as well as more complex tasks like sourcing weather or turning on the heated/cooled seats. It’s clever.
However, the function is triggered anytime you say ‘Mercedes’ even without the ‘Hey’, so if you’re having a conversation about the car or the brand, the robot lady might interject and make you lose your train of thought.
Overall, fit and finish inside the A-Class’ cabin is pretty par for the course in the compact premium segment. It’s no standout for tactility like Mercedes once was, but there’s a good mix of supple leather and leatherette surfaces, as well as soft-touch materials and metal accents.
With that said, the material and build quality doesn’t feel up there with the similarly-priced C-Class, despite its larger sibling’s advancing age.
The grey/black colourway of our tester is a subtle, classy option. You can also select red/black for a bit more visual pop.
Space and storage up front is pretty good, with large door bins and heaps of incidental storage options. There’s two cupholders as well, though the wireless phone charger is too small for a large phone when connected via wire to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Our tester’s optional panoramic sunroof brings in plenty of light to add to that feeling of airiness and spaciousness.
Moving into the second row, while this is a premium sedan there’s an emphasis on ‘small’. The A-Class Sedan’s sloping roofline isn’t quite as coupe-like as the CLA, though even six-foot-one-ish me struggled to fit behind my own driving position.
Headroom is tight for tall occupants due to the aforementioned roofline, and there’s limited knee room as well if you’re lanky like myself.
So, the back is best saved for smaller friends, family and kids. There are, however, a good amount of amenities in the back for those who fit.
Air vents and USB-C charge points are notable inclusions, as are the map pockets on the front seatbacks, bottle holders in the doors and fold-down centre armrest with cupholders.
Under the bootlid is a decent 430L luggage area. There’s no spare under the boot floor, as the run-flat tyres negate the need for even a space-saver… in theory.
A250 models are powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine developing 165kW at 5500rpm and 350Nm at 1800rpm. Decent outputs for a little engine in a small car.
Those outputs are channelled to a front-biased 4Matic all-wheel drive system via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Previously, Mercedes-Benz Australia offered the A250 sans all-wheel drive for a few grand less, but that’s no longer available in 2021.
Mercedes-Benz claims a 0-100 sprint time of 6.2 seconds, and combined fuel use of 6.6L/100km. During our week with the car we saw eights and nines with mixed driving skewed to urban use.
The A250 4Matic demands 95RON premium unleaded as a minimum, and the fuel tank measures 51 litres.
The A-Class debuted Mercedes-Benz’s new MFA front-drive architecture, which has since been rolled out across its other compact model lines.
With a greater focus on driver engagement, the current generation is longer, lower and wider than the model before it, and in sedan guise boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.22, which at launch was claimed to be the “lowest of all production vehicles worldwide”.
It certainly feels like a more sporting model pretty much as soon as you get moving. The low driving position adds to the A250’s hunkered-down feel on the road. It’s planted, poised, and keen to turn wherever you point it.
Performance from the 2.0-litre turbo is pretty good, hot-hatch like even. There’s 350Nm on tap from just 1800rpm making for effortless acceleration in town, though it does run out of puff at the top end.
It doesn’t feel quite as eager to get going as my Golf GTI, but if you flick the drive mode into Sport+ everything goes into full attack mode, and it’s more than responsive then.
With that in mind, at nearly $70,000 as tested you can get yourself into faster, more focused sporty small cars like the Audi S3, BMW M135i xDrive and Volkswagen Golf R with change to spare.
The A250 doesn’t have the most inspiring engine note. In fact, it’s a little tinny and thrashy under load which isn’t particularly pleasant.
I found the seven-speed dual-clutch to be mostly good, but it was occasionally clunky and hesitant at low speeds or crawling up slow inclines e.g. when parking on a slant like I have to outside my house.
Meanwhile, the ride is pretty well sorted in town and on the freeway, with our tester’s adaptive dampers offering a good balance of comfort and body control.
In its standard Comfort setting there’s an almost floaty glide over bumps which is reminiscent of a larger Mercedes, though larger hits can be a little jarring as I found out on some of the Melbourne CBD’s pothole-ridden streets.
The suspension is very compliant on the freeway, giving the A-Class a big car-feel on the open road. You can tell this was engineered to accommodate a high-performance powertrain like in the AMG A35 and A45, and engineered to sit happily at 200km/h on the Autobahn.
What wasn’t so pleasant was the amount of road noise entering the cabin at speed. Over smooth roads the A-Class is a comfortable, quiet place to sit with absolutely no wind noise – likely helped by its super aerodynamic body – but that’s cancelled out by the noticeable presence of tyre roar.
It probably doesn’t help our test car was rolling on standard run-flat tyres. We’ve experience the noise issue with numerous European cars with this kind of rubber, and it seems to be a common issue with Benz models based on this platform.
For a vehicle with the Mercedes-Benz badge on the nose and premium aspirations, it’s a little disappointing.
When the road gets twisty the A250 is sure-footed and sharp, with quick, direct steering offering good levels of feedback and a chassis that keeps the body pretty flat through corners.
You can genuinely have some fun in this thing, particularly when taking control via the paddles, without shelling out the extra dosh for the AMG A35 Sedan (from $72,700).
We did notice, however, some mid-corner bumps can unsettle the rear. Even at lower speeds, like city speeds.
One area the A-Class really does excel is in the area of driver tech, even if a lot of the stuff on our tester is optional.
We particularly liked the intuitive all-speed adaptive cruise control system and Lane Change Assist, which gently steers you into the next lane when you indicate on the freeway when using cruise. It feels really high end from this perspective, and would lead me to recommend the Driving Assistance pack as a must.
The A-Class line-up is covered by Mercedes-Benz’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty which is one of the leading programs in the premium space.
Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 25,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
Pre-paid service plans are available, covering the first three, four or five years. These are priced at $2050, $2950 and $3500 respectively.
For a long time critics would say an A-Class isn’t a ‘true’ Mercedes-Benz, rather a more affordable way to get you through the showroom door and eventually into their larger, more expensive products as time rolls on.
But, in many ways the A-Class redefines the small car segment when it comes to technology and luxury features, even if a lot of said elements are optional extras – which in itself is a core part of the luxury car experience.
In isolation, the A250 4Matic Sedan is a great small car. It looks sharp, drives well offering both luxurious comfort and sporty dynamics, while also offering a range of high-end features and technologies befitting of the three-pointed star badge.
With that said, at nearly $70,000 as tested and still missing some features I’d personally want from a premium small car, the value becomes questionable when direct competitors and even my own Golf GTI offer most if not the same amount of kit for substantially less money.
Like most premium buys though, it’s a decision made by the heart as much as the head, sometimes more, and the allure of the Mercedes-Benz badge will be enough for many – the A-Class’ popularity speaks for itself.
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